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Elon Musk wants to own Twitter to protect his ‘freedom’, not everyone else’s | Robert Reich

Elon Musk has now put collectively a $46.5bn financing package deal to purchase Twitter – two thirds of it from his personal property, and a 3rd from financial institution loans secured towards Twitter’s property. It’s the largest acquisition financing ever put ahead for one individual.

Twitter’s founder and high managers don’t need Musk to take over the corporate. They supplied him a seat on the board however he didn’t need it as a result of he’d must be accountable to all different shareholders. Now they’re adopting a “poison pill” to cease him. However Musk plans to purchase shares instantly with a young provide that shareholders can’t refuse. In spite of everything, it’s a free market.

Musk says nobody ought to object to what he desires to do with Twitter as a result of he’s a “free speech absolutist,” and who might be towards free speech? In addition to, he and his apologists say, if customers don’t like what he does with Twitter they will go elsewhere. Freedom to decide on.

Free market? Free speech? Free selection?

When billionaires like Musk justify their motives through the use of “freedom,” beware. What they really search is freedom from accountability. They need to use their huge fortunes to do no matter they please – unconstrained by legal guidelines or laws, shareholders, and even customers.

The “free market” more and more displays the calls for of huge cash. Unfriendly takeovers, resembling Musk is mounting at Twitter, weren’t a part of the “free market” till the late Nineteen Seventies and early Eighties. Earlier than then, legal guidelines and laws constrained them. Then got here company raiders like Carl Icahn and Michael Milken. Their MO was to search out companies whose property had been value greater than their inventory worth, borrow towards them, purchase sufficient shares to pressure them to chop prices (resembling shedding employees, abandoning their communities, busting unions, and taking up crushing debt), and money in.

However the raiders’ antics typically imposed enormous social prices. They pushed America from stakeholder capitalism (the place employees and communities had a say in what companies did) to shareholder capitalism (the place the only company aim is to maximise shareholder worth). Inequality skyrocketed, insecurity soared, huge swaths of America had been deserted, and tens of millions of excellent jobs vanished.

The raiders altered the “free market” to permit them to do that. That’s what the super-rich do. There’s no “free market” in nature. The “free market” depends upon legal guidelines and guidelines. When you have sufficient cash, you should buy modifications in these legal guidelines and guidelines that make you much more cash. (You may as well get the federal government to subsidize you – Musk has obtained a reported $4.9bn to this point.)

“Free speech” is one other freedom that activates wealth. As a sensible matter, your capability to be heard activates the scale of the megaphone you should buy. In case you’re extraordinarily wealthy you should purchase the Washington Publish or personal Fox Information. In case you’re the wealthiest individual on the planet you should buy one of many greatest megaphones on the planet known as Twitter – after which resolve who can use it, what its algorithms are going to be, and the way it both invitations or filters out massive lies.

Musk mentioned final week that he doesn’t care in regards to the economics of the deal and is pursuing it as a result of it’s “extremely important to the future of civilization.” Tremendous, however who anointed Musk to resolve the way forward for civilization?

Which brings us to free selection. If customers don’t like what Musk does with Twitter, they can’t merely change to a different Twitter-like platform. There aren’t any. The most important social media platforms have grown gigantic as a result of anybody who desires to take part in them and affect debate has to hitch them. After they attain a sure dimension, they’re the one megaphone on the town. The place else would customers go to publish brief messages that may attain tens of tens of millions of individuals aside from Twitter?

With social media, the abnormal guidelines of competitors don’t apply. As soon as a platform is dominant it turns into much more dominant. As Donald Trump found along with his “Truth Social” fiasco, upstarts don’t stand a lot probability.

Musk’s actual aim has nothing to do with the liberty of others. His aim is his personal unconstrained freedom – the liberty to wield monumental energy with out having to be accountable to legal guidelines and laws, to shareholders, or to market competitors – which is why he’s lifeless set on proudly owning Twitter.

In contrast to his ambitions to upend transportation and interstellar flight, this one is harmful. It would nicely upend democracy.

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